Technology and Politics: Telegraphy and the 1860 Election

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Beason, Edward Farris
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation has incorporated digital modes and methods of research to answer the question “Did telegraphy aid in the rise of the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860?” My assessment is that telegraphy affected Lincoln’s ability to consolidate the North into a Republican voting bloc ultimately securing his election to the presidency. I came to that conclusion by examining the locations (states and counties) where telegraph offices existed and compared them with locations that provided the most support for Lincoln in 1860. I have also, to some extent, examined telegraphy’s impact on the rise of the Republican Party, the political organization that carried Lincoln to victory. The digital tool used for this examination was ArcGIS. I used ArcGIS to map and then to digitally analyze the data and other information collected during this research process. By 1860, most major newspapers used telegraphy to gather and disseminate information so I have also included a discussion and some information about newspapers. Local newspapers, such the Charleston Mercury, had sections labeled “Latest By Telegraph.” National newspapers, such as the New York Herald, also had sections labeled “News By Telegraph.” These columns were dedicated to publishing news very rapidly. I used the digital newspaper repository and the Library of Congress’s Chronicling American newspaper database. These digital newspaper databases made it possible to keyword search thousands of newspapers to see where information appeared at certain times. Though the databases may not represent an exhaustive listing of newspapers, they did provide a snapshot of some of the places information appeared and when it was published. The focus of this dissertation has been narrowed to focus primarily on an examination of the Republican Party’s role in the election of 1860. The analysis has centered on comparing the locations that provided the highest density of support for the Republican Party in 1860 with the locations that had the greatest amount of telegraph office locations. The “public” portion of this dissertation is represented in the creation of a public website ( that contains maps and other graphical displays along with data collected during the project.
Abraham Lincoln, Newspapers, Politics, Republican Party, Technology, Telegraphy, History, Political science, Journalism